York children respond to Richard III with drama, daggers and Doctor Who

3 Mar 2014 @ 9.39 am
| Education

York school students perform Responding To Richard, York Theatre Royal. Photographs: Anthony Robling

More than 100 school children brought a new take on Shakespeare’s Richard III with the help of Britain’s leading theatre company.

Pupils from seven different schools took part in a show called Responding To Richard with the help of members of the Royal Shakespeare Company, watched by an audience of appreciative parents.

Responding To Richard aims to encourage young children to enjoy theatre and is a unique approach to Shakespeare. Schools were asked to put their own spin on a particular section of Richard III, based on the students’ own ideas.

York Theatre Royal helped to develop each school’s interpretation of the pieces before they were performed in front of an appreciative audience at the theatre on Thursday, February 27.

As the groups came from different schools, the scenes were all noticeably different. Enabling the students to use their own ideas brought the play into 21st century through the use of modern music and the influence of TV.

The performance

York High School opened the show with a confident performance of a Shakespeare ensemble.

The students used a mirroring technique which emphasised the most important movements of the main characters and added texture to the performance. The children playing Richard and Edward certainly seemed to relish wearing the king’s crown.

Westfield Primary Community School contributed the War Of The Roses scene which started with the children striking dramatic poses to the beat of a drum, describing the war.

Simple costumes distinguished the two sides, white for the Lancaster side and red for Richard’s side. The drum demonstrated with vigour the tension of war building throughout the scene.

Year 5 of Acomb Primary School carried out the Clarence’s Dream scene with a particularly interesting and energetic take on the ship at sea.

Small groups acted out different characteristics of a storm; some whistling, some clapping to show the waves crashing and lots of movement around the stage making use of the large space.

The Richard Rising scene was brought to life by Woodthorpe Primary School through a very active sword fight with canes.

The eerie music only added to the bloodthirsty atmosphere and the children even started hissing when Richard was present on stage – with some audience participation!

Applefields School followed on with their Descent Into Darkness scene and easily won the prize for the best costumes with their fancy robes.

Jordan Humble and Catherine Scholfield shared the role of Richard and were excellent at remembering of their lines, the whole student cast performed well in front of their excited audience.

Acomb Primary School Year 6 created a striking Pick Of The Conspiracy Theories scene. It involved theories such as the two princes being separated and killing themselves, one stating “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse; a horse a horse, my kingdom for a horse”.

His brother took his own life while proclaiming “what is this I see before me, a dagger?” – a line taken from Macbeth.

Another of the conspiracy theories involved a certain bow-tie wearing Doctor Who saving and hiding the royal brothers where no one would ever find them. This brilliant twist on Richard III was met with a storm of applause from the audience.

Next was Poppleton Road Primary School with their Things That Go Bump In The Night scene. They used repetition of the lines “Despair and die!” to condemn Richard to bad dreams about the people he had put to death.

On the other side of the stage Richmond was brought joyful dreams by the children dressed in white which was a stark contrast to the children wearing black bringing nightmares.

Last but not least St Barnabas CE Primary School took to the stage with their Rumour v Reality scene. They had an original approach using themselves and in some cases each other as props; one girl stood astride another who was on her knees as a horse.

The rumours were announced by one person and then spread around the stage in whispers to demonstrate how easily they multiplied.

Overall the Responding To Richard show was appreciated and enjoyed by everyone in the audience and the children did an amazing job of acting out the scenes. Louise Atkin, mum of one of the children performing, said: “I think it went really well and the hard work is really apparent.

“I know my daughter was very excited about taking part.”

The Royal Shakespeare Company should perhaps take some of the students on as actors for their next production!


  • York Theatre Royal is a partner theatre in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Learning and Performance Network education project, which aims to develop the teaching and learning of Shakespeare
  • Read more about Richard III and York here